Colonies

On Dec. 4, 1960, the United Nations issued a declaration setting a 2010 deadline for “Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples.” The deadline was missed. More than five decades since the UN declaration, there remain 17 non-self governing territories around the world. Despite the recurrent movement for self-determination, colonies have been slow in defining their futures.

Colonialism in the 21st century is an anachronism. Yet, the imperialistic arrangement that may seem out of place in the modern world continues to thrive — but not without resistance, not without bitterness and not without sowing domestic discord.

In some cases, the quest for home-rule proved regressive, as in the case of Norfolk Island, whose Legislative Assembly was abolished on June 17, 2015. The parliament’s abolition spelled the end of the island’s limited autonomy granted by Australia in 1979 by virtue of the Norfolk Island Act.

Australia’s decision to revoke Norfolk Island’s self-governance was based on the commonwealth’s perception that the island had never gained self-sufficiency and remained heavily reliant on subsidies. With a population of close to 1,800, Norfolk Island received $12.5 million in commonwealth subsidy in 2015 alone.

In November last year, New Caledonia voted to remain part of France. The long-awaited independence referendum had an 81 percent turnout and its result was more than what was expected. With 56 percent of voters saying “yes” to Paris, the islands came closest to independence.

It was the first of three possible referenda on the territory's future. Under the 1998 Noumea Accord, another independence vote may be scheduled in 2020 if the local government approves it. If the second referendum again rejects independence, a last referendum may be called again in 2022.

The French colony is grappling with the same polarizing issues that are familiar to Guam. One is related to the vexed question of who should be eligible to vote. The Noumea Accord restricts voting in provincial elections to residents before 1988 to preserve the rights of indigenous and long-term white settlers. The voting eligibility is later extended to residents before 1994.

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